Drug seizures along the Canadian border in upstate New York have increased by more than 1,000% this year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The agency’s Buffalo Field Office, which covers 16 ports of entry throughout the state, recovered more than 40,000 pounds of narcotics over 732 separate seizures from Oct. 1, 2019, to Aug. 31, 2020, federal officials said in a recent news release.
By comparison, just about 3,400 pounds of narcotics were seized during the same period a year earlier.
Authorities believe that Canada’s legalization of recreational marijuana, which came into effect in late 2018, is partly to blame for the massive jump in drug seizures.
“The marijuana seizures alone are valued at just over $120M,” Buffalo Field Office Director Rose Brophy said in a statement.
Brophy also said that criminal organizations have not stopped their activities “just because the border has restricted travel.”
Traffic along the U.S.-Canada border has been drastically limited since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the two countries to restrict travel to curb the spread of the virus.
Kevin Kelly, the special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations for the Buffalo office, said different types of criminals are getting involved with the marijuana smuggling business.
“What you’re seeing is traditional organized crime, Asian organized crime, East Indian organized crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs — all having a piece or a stock in this sophisticated coordination of getting marijuana into the U.S.,” he told ABC News. “It’s well structured, it’s well choreographed, it’s a business model.”
Besides marijuana, CBP agents have also seized ecstasy, heroin, steroids, fentanyl and other drugs.
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